Who Killed Martin Luther King? An American Murder Mystery

Just a few weeks before Ray arrived in Memphis, the man who would soon become president of the SCLC, Ralph David Abernathy, had grown worried that the FBI threat against King had intensified again. Something was wrong. King seemed darkly preoccupied. Just a month before the assassination, King and Abernathy took a brief break in Mexico to rest up before the Poverty Campaign was to begin in earnest. Waking up late one night to find King missing from their suite, Abernathy finally found his friend lost in thought on the balcony of the seaside hotel, staring out at the sea in the dark. King “stared alone from a high balcony until nearly dawn and evaded Abernathy’s questions about what was wrong — pointing enigmatically to a rock in Acapulco harbor, then singing “Rock of Ages,’” writes King biographer Taylor Branch. The old hymn about approaching death, sung in the ominous dark of three in the morning, worried King’s longtime partner. Branch writes that King’s worrisome behavior “alarmed Abernathy enough to make discreet inquiries about whether the FBI may have threatened King directly again, but he found no such reports.”

Tanks roll through Detroit in July 1967. (photo: Ullstein Bild, Getty Images)
Troops in Newark
Carmichael and Brown (center), with Black Panther co-founder Bobby Seale and others
Bonus army shanty town
Bonus army shanty burns after the military attacks

Read part 4.

Writer — bylines at Salon, Alternet, McSweeney’s, Flagpole Magazine